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It's hard to think that almost ten years have passed since Devin Townsend announced that his awesome band Strapping Young Lad had ceased its activities. Instead he chose to take some time off, only to return two years later with the Devin Townsend Project. The project was originally going to span through four albums covering different areas and sounds, with Deconstruction being his first extreme metal album since the split-up of SYL. While sounding like a typical Townsend product, and holding quite a few similarities to his former band, it's still something new and unique in his catalogue.
The album showcases Devin's extreme trademark metal sound in somewhat of a 1950's fair-ground setting, just like the album art showcases. When listening to this album, my memories of the old 1990's Batman (the animated series) cartoon show are always present, and I'm just waiting for Batman's arch nemesis, the Joker (voiced by Mark Hamill), to make a cameo with some one-liner. This never happens, however, but we get loads of Devin's usual silly jokes and humor instead. The title-track even starts off with Devin doing a fart sound with his voice. The entire album is filled with it, and I don't personally mind it as I rarely care about lyrics anyway. For those of you who do care, you'll either love him or hate him for it.
Musically this album is very varied. There is that obvious fair-ground atmosphere and sound effects present throughout the album, but the songs themselves pretty much cover all the different styles Devin has worked with throughout his career. What bothers me with these songs, however, is that it never seems to actually work out that good. Take "The Mighty Masturbator" (notice the title) for instance. It's the album's lengthiest track clocking in at 16:28, and it's actually really good, up to a certain point. Around the four-minute mark, the song just starts to dive into a sea of weirdness, sound effects and whatnot. I'm sure that Devin had his visions when he composed the music, but I can't really see it. Sadly, most of the songs tend to be either like this, or they're way too outdrawn ("Stand"), or simply too one-dimensional instead ("Pandemic"). The only song I really find to be truly well-crafted is "Planet Of The Apes", but it's also an epic masterpiece at that.
The production is well done and balanced. It sounds improved compared to DTP's previous (semi-)metal album, Addicted, especially in the drum department. At the same time it's got the typical Devin-style production, meaning it sounds way too over-produced. Thankfully though, this one is not as bad as the most recent DTP albums, all of which are even more over-produced. The main thing I can miss when listening to this is some bad-ass distortion for the guitars, but it's alright nonetheless.
Despite Devin himself and his guest performers on this album doing an amazing job, the songs fall somewhat short in holding a certain standard together. It's not like the songs are bad, not at all, but they're just not quite as well-crafted as I'd like them to be. Most of the songs have excellent parts of interest, but it gets quite annoying when the rest feels either filler, uninspired or sometimes even quite bad, especially considering that most tracks are rather lengthy in duration. What's even more sad is that Devin kind of lost my interest in his music after this one, and though I have checked out his more recent DTP records anyway, I can only say that it's been even less appealing to me.
Check-outs: Planet Of The Apes, Sumeria, Poltergeist.
Deconstruction is an overwhelming album. Even for those with a strong constitution of technical music and aggressive music will likely find the sheer size and scope of this album a bit overwhelming. For this reason, I find the album is most enjoyed in an environment where the listener can move. This is because it constantly incites physical reactions (or at least to me) be it dancing, headbanging, hell even running or whatever. Manic music like this simply isn't experienced as well when sitting down, particularly when listening all the way through.
With that out of the way, I'd like to say that Deconstruction has become one of my favorite works of Devin's. It's greatest two strengths are one it's innovation, and two it's composition. While much of the musical elements to be found here have been used by other bands, Devin structures them and executes them in such an unusually manic way, that coupled with the layers of production creates a take on a typical prog sound that still manages to actually be "progressive." Just listen to the title track, where you have some offbeat rhythms continually increasing and decreasing in tempo like a wheel with the choirs accenting Devin's bizarre lyrical rant at just the right spot. That is just one small example of the numerous ways Devin mixes up familiar elements, so I will attempt to point out some of the more memorable ones without getting too lost in the technical aspects. Because as a musician and as a fan of technical music this album is something of a wet dream if you will.
I mentioned earlier that the composition and structure was one of the album's finest points. This is clearly observed in the track listing. Starting off with "Praise the Lowered" is appropriate because it allows you to slowly build into the vibe. Using mainly just electronic drums, soft vocals, and muttering keyboards in the back it's hardly what you may have initially expected when hearing about the album in the press. This then leads into "Stand" which has a fairly moody, slower intro that gradually builds into the explosion of guitar which is when the album first takes up the metal torch it waves throughout much of it. The song weaves it's way through several changes including an almost Maiden like guitar solo, and then builds back down to it's conclusion.
It's hard to pick distinct highlights because the album really works great as a whole. It really feels like your on the journey the protagonist is, and the visual soundscapes created by the songs are quite exciting. By the time you get to "Juular" the journey speeds up quite a bit and from there your basically holding on for dear life as the stream of consciousness style songwriting takes a firmer grip. Ryan van Poederooyen and Dirk Verbeuren help tie all this chaos together with their standout performances. Juicy fills, tight rhythms, and the ability to really lock in and connect with the melodic instruments gives the songs a stronger impact.
I will say that "The Mighty Masturbator" struck me initially as the best song on the album, and in a sense it is but I hesitate to say with certainty. Either way this is by far Devin's most overtly "prog" song he's ever done and strangely enough kind of reminds me of The Princess Bride. Now I know you're probably think "what the hell" but let me explain. In the commentary for this album Devin explains that this piece was something of a response/parody to the pressure he has received to write technical music and so he wanted to go all out and then end it with a joke. In this way it reminds me of The Princess Bride because both simultaneously adhere to the genre they are making fun of, do it better than many others, and still manage to come out with a few laughs. There's some especially juicy instrumental parts on this song as well, particularly that 5 over 4 bit with descending guitar line and the fills during the post "rave club" section. All in all it swings you through many moods and is definitely in my point of view one of the greatest songs of 2011.
As you can probably tell, there's so much information that it's difficult to sum up. But don't get the impression that it's a one trick pony or at one dynamic the whole time. The soft sections in "Planet of the Apes", "Sumeria", the title track and a few others provide breathing space and also help tell the story as well. Devin was wise to mix it up because knowing some of his past tendencies it easily could have become overly hectic and unlistenable. Instead it is overwhelming and technical, but still enjoyable and fun.
Which brings me to another point. Many people have pointed out the humor present on the album, particularly in the title track. Now, it would be silly to pretend these elements are absent and in fact one of the things that keeps it from becoming annoying is the humor. However, I don't think it plays out like a comedy album in the same way Ziltoid did at times or obviously Punky Bruster. As Devy has mentioned before, it deals with some serious issues when you actually read through the lyrics and keep track of what's going. The title track for example may have fart noises, excessive guitar "wanking" (which I'm not gonna lie I totally dug the hell out of) and goofy narrations from Oderus Urungus, but by the end I was almost moved you could say. Some of the melodies towards the end almost reminded me of Pain of Salvation or Dream Theater and really get caught in your head. This being another example of how Townsend balances musicality with absurdity.
So all in all, there's so much enjoyment to be had with this album if you let it do so. It's a great musical journey that manages to avoid any pretentiousness that some others have reached. It can be fun or serious (or both) depending on how you approach it, and thanks to it's multi layer production and whacked arrangements can be listened to numerous times without quite catching everything. If it has a flaw, it's that even with the variety present it nonetheless does define itself quite solidly. You definitely have to be in a very specific mood to enjoy it otherwise it could be quite disappointing, so it may not be one of the most listened to CD's in a person's catalog. Regardless, at least for me, it's definitely one of the best.
Devin Townsend has become one of the most well-respected musicians in metal, and for good reason. The guy is well known for being the frontman of Strapping Young Lad, as well as his numerous solo albums and projects. Not many musicians are quite as diverse, multi-talented, or hard-working as he. The man can sing (with an extremely wide range, both cleans and harsh), play multiple instruments, compose, and write lyrics. He is also known for writing different styles of music, whether it be extreme metal or ambient acoustic rock. When you think about how his albums are almost entirely written by him, you cannot deny his talent and hard work, even if you dislike his work. Personally, I consider Mr. Townsend to be one of the most talented musicians who ever lived, not only in metal, but music in general.
Now then, here we have Deconstruction, which (excluding Strapping Young Lad) is the heaviest album he has ever released. This record perfectly blends extreme metal with progressive, symphonic, industrial and avant-garde to make something truly epic, operatic, and chaotic with a touch of humor. There are various guest musicians from other well known bands who appear, whom will be mentioned later on. Musically, this is unlike anything ever released in metal. Lyrically, the album tells a story of a man who searches for the true meaning of reality, and then finds that the secrets of the world are confined in a cheeseburger presented to him by the devil. As he is a vegetarian, he cannot eat the burger and his journey is rendered fruitless. Yeah, it's a pretty weird story concept, but this is the kind of thing Devin Townsend is known for.
Now, let's look at the songs. The opening track, "Praise the Lowered", begins with some calming and ambient industrial sounds and soft drums. Devin's vocals come in with a soft melody about a minute or so in. This part of the song is pretty much the polar opposite of what you will be hearing for the next 69 minutes or so. Around 2 minutes you will hear Devin going into his higher vocal registers, along with some heavier guitar and drums, plus an orchestra, fading in, in the background. Then, you hear Devin doing high shriek vocals while the song progressively gets heavier. At one point you hear him and a growled voice saying "SMOKE THAT FUCKING..." And once they hit the word "WEED!" the song has reached it's heavy peak, and becomes a very chaotic ocean of screaming, growling (provided by Paul Kuhr of Novembers Doom), guitars, drums, and orchestral instruments and choirs. This continues for about a minute, and then the music begins to fade out, with a sustaining ambient sound being faded in at the same time.
The ambient sound from the previous track then begins to fade as a simple palm-muted riff fades in simultaneously. This marks the beginning of track #2. "Stand" begins with Devin singing a soft, dissonant sounding melody which creates a somewhat unsettling atmosphere. After the first verse, some soft orchestra starts coming in during the second verse. After verse two, the orchestra part pauses, you hear the word "ready", and then the guitar and orchestra parts come back in much louder, along with Devin's vocals which now sound angry. At this point, the rest of the song maintains this level of intensity, much complimented with the growled vocals of Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth. There's a short part in the middle where everything quiets down for a few measures and then goes straight back into its chaotic nature.
Next, we have track #3, "Juular", which begins with a high scream from Devin. This song kicks you in the face from the get go, and maintains a constant down-up-down-up riff with some cool choir-like vocals in the background chanting in rhythm to the guitar riff. Devin's operatic singing comes in shortly. The screamed choruses in this song are performed by ex-Emperor frontman, Ihsahn, which creates a chilling atmosphere along with the background vocals going "ahhh-ahh-ahh-ahhhhhhh!". This track is short, sweet, and to the point.
"Planet of the Apes" begins with a short, dissonant piano lick and then a "Djent" influenced riff comes in, shortly accompanied by a dissonant sounding guitar lead, sounding very Meshuggah-esque. Then kicks off another symphonic accompanied guitar riff, which then goes into a part where Devin is heard doing a talking voice for a few verses. a couple minutes in, you hear some of his growled vocals repeating "SO BAD... SO BAD.... SO BAD...." and then the music takes a sweet turn and you can hear Devin doing some of his high register clean vocals some more. After this, there is a funny line where he sings "While we all have lots of bands who influence, still, we all rip off Meshuggah!" along to the Djent-ish riff from the beginning. The song continues taking various twists and turns, and featuring some guest vocals by Tommy Giles Rogers, of Between the Buried and Me. This is probably the most rhythmically complex song on the album.
"Sumeria" starts with an epic operatic sounding choir singing the first few lines, somewhat similar to a Nightwish chorus. The song then begins with a gallop riff that maintains throughout the track. This track features Joe Duplantier of Gojira during the songs verses, and then the track ends calmly to some clean guitar accompanied by the voice of Paul Masvidal of Cynic.
"The Mighty Masturbator", the longest song on the album begins with a soft minor arpeggio being played along with Devin singing in a soft yet operatic voice. About a minute and a half in, the orchestral parts and distorted guitars all come in at once, completely changing the vibe. Here Townsend showcases his operatic vocals very well. They sound similar to something you would hear in a famous musical on Broadway of something like that. The song continues with the arpeggios for quite a while, and then goes into a part where the tempo is sped up and a cool descending scale is heard from the guitar and keyboards as Devin sings in his operatic voice "Save the world, you fool, you child". This continues until around the midpoint of the song where an electronic beat can be heard, and some cheering sounds to Devin making a speech of some sort. For the next four minutes you hear a bunch of voices saying "Give it up, your world! Give it up, your world world world world!" being chanted along the electronic beat in the background. The guitars and orchestras are also adding their compliments here. In the middle you can hear vocals from Greg Puciato, of The Dillenger Escape Plan. After this little section is over, the song goes back to sounding like symphonic metal for a few mintues, and then for the last couple minutes of the song, it breaks into a "carnival-swing" while you hear Devin in a faded voice announcing a freak show. At the end you hear Devin saying "Ladies and Gentlemen, I now know my life's purpose! I am the mighty Masturbator!" along with an operatic "Ahhhh... mennnn" at the end. Overall, this is probably the goofiest and strangest song on the album.
"Pandemic" begins with blastbeats and vocals, along with some fast-spoken vocals similar to SYL being heard in the background. Early in the song you hear some soprano vocals provoded by Floor Jansen (ex-After Forever). The song, similar to Juular, is a fast, short song that maintains its rhythm and doesn't make a whole lot of twists and turns. One of the album's more forgettable tracks, but still good.
Next, we have the title track, "Deconstruction". The album begins with farting noises (yeah... farting noises) and voices talking. Then, a guitar lead can be heard while the word "cheeseburger" is repeated. The song then kicks off in a speed metal riff. Some vocals on this song are provided by Oderus Urungus, of GWAR. In the middle of the song, the guitars and drums are paused while you hear the orchestra and choir vocals repeating the lines "All beef patties, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bunnnn" And then you hear a voice going "but I don't like cheeseburgers guys, I'm a vege-ma-tarian", at which point, the song becomes furious and sweeps and blast beats are heard. Then comes a solo performed by Fredrik Thordendal of Meshuggah which reminds me very much of the solo from "New Millenium Cyanide Christ". Ok, I take it back. THIS is the goofiest song on the album.
"Poltergeist" is another song similar to "Juular" and "Pandemic" in terms of song structure. This I consider to be the album's weakest track, but it still serves as a good ending.
Overall, Deconstruction is one of the craziest, epic and unique albums I have ever listened to. It blends everything extremely well into something that is intense, overwhelming and humorous at the same time. This album is like the musical equivalent of a spicy hot dog with mustard, relish, chocolate, peanut butter and chili beans. It's that crazy. I would recommend this to any fan of extreme metal, progressive metal, operatic/symphonic metal, avant-garde metal, or all of the above.
All of the above words are fine adjectives to describe this album. For a musical concoction of this caliber to be created by one man warrants enormous amounts of praise. The soaring choirs, various vocal styles, and impressive musical compositions all come together to prove the skill that Devin Townsend has with his sonic craft. With unending passion, Devin exudes musical genius and precision in his most impressive work to date.
The album gets off to a slow start, but gradually picks up speed. Album opener, "Praise the Lowered," is the least heavy track on the album, and the first half of the track creates a tranquil atmosphere. Breaking through the calm comes the last half of the track which is made up of similarly slow-paced, but heavier music. Electric guitars make their presence known along with darker vocals. "Stand" features some well-placed choir effects, a solid guitar solo, and guest vocals from Opeth's Mikael Åkerfeldt. My only gripe about Mikael being used for this song is that he wasn't used very much.
"Juular", "Sumeria", "Pandemic", and "Poltergeist" are the four tracks on this album which are faster-paced. The energy is spread throughout the album and "Poltergeist" makes for an excellent album closer. The longer tracks on the album such as "Planet of the Apes", "The Mighty Masturbator", and "Deconstruction" all add to atmosphere. All three songs either move along in a slow or mid-paced manner, and also have some very humorous lyrics. "The Mighty Masturbator" contains some dramatic musical build-ups in the forms of chanting beats, dark vocals, and an ever intensifying sound. Title track, "Deconstruction" features some of the more random and ridiculous lyrical content.
When reading through the lyrics on this album, it's easy to see that Devin's comical side is captured on this album. Talk of cheeseburgers, "savin' the world boots", and "vegi-ma-tarian's" are all found throughout several songs. Devin even makes a joke about how so many bands have copied Meshuggah's guitar style with the line "While we all have lots of bands who influence still…we all rip off Meshuggah!" And what humorous album would be complete without fart sound effects like the ones used at the beginning of the song, "Deconstruction?"
Despite all the positive elements that the album puts forth, it is not without faults. The main problem this album suffers from is that tracks 2 - 8 lack much identity. You could take almost any portion of music from any of those tracks and not know which song you were listening to. The album is best listened to as a single entity, and the atmosphere throughout the album is very consistent. However, due to its consistency, it's difficult to tell tracks apart. "Praise the Lowered" and "Poltergeist" are the exceptions because "Praise the Lowered" is the least heavy song on the album and "Poltergeist" is one of the most powerful and heavy songs found here. All of the songs in-between don't have too many distinguishing characteristics other than some of Devin's sound effects. Despite this drawback, the album is still a fun listen, and progressive metal fans will definitely enjoy this.
Devin Townsend's pedigree is unimpeachable. He's a brilliant songwriter and incredibly talented guitarist and vocalist. Some people drool at the very mention of his name, and would lick his boots no matter what he does. Much was made of the recording process, which involved symphonic elements and choirs and was simply a huge undertaking. So, the final heavy album of the Devin Townsend Project was one of the most highly-anticipated albums of the year. Could it possibly live up to the anticipation?
Put simply, no. It's a bloated, 71 minute mess, the kind of thing mockumentaries are made of. Opener "Praise the Lowered" starts out with some very quiet Phil Collins kind of stuff, then gets a little heavy. It's a six minute intro. The follow-up, "Stand", is nine minutes of build-up. Tension, but no release. In other words, this ridiculous opera starts out with over 17 minutes of intro.
The other extended compositions--the 11 minute "Planet of the Apes", 16 minute "The Mighty Masturbator", and 9 minute title track--are perfect illustrations of meandering prog excess. Random, disparate parts are strung together in endless array, few of which are heavy, memorable, or even interesting. They're punctuated by choirs, symphonies, synths, and I'm fairly certain I heard the kitchen sink in there as well. There are short parts in there that are quite good, and they remind you of what Hevy Devy can do, but they are rare and all too short.
Even the shorter cuts seem pointless. The 6 minute "Sumeria", for example, is a selection of random garbage played over the top of a so-so riff.
The only consistently redeeming feature of the album is Devin's own vocals. He uses his full range of growls, clean singing, and narration. The lyrics are injected with his quirky sense of humor, frivolity belying his deeper meanings. But lyrics don't matter much to me, and vocals alone don't save this otherwise laughable record.
The Verdict: This is Spinal Tap. If they had made a movie about the production of this thing, it would have been hilarious. Perhaps it is the work of an out-of-touch genius with a bloated ego and ideas bigger than he can pull off. On the other hand, given his well-known sense of humor, maybe Deconstruction is just a joke on all of us, to see if we'll just swallow any pill he prescribes.
originally written for http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/
Years from now this release will be looked back upon as a crazy red-haired stepchild of the early 2000s that took music to an outlandish area at the time. This album indeed is far more evolved than any other thing out there. It is also heavily experimental.
Throughout this release Townsend proves again and again why he is the most talented musician in the world. The production is absolutely awe-inspiring and the musicianship is ridiculous. The songwriting while experimental is about as steady and catchy as it gets. There are hooks here that you will not find on another record. The array of vocal styles, the satirical but somehow meaningful lyrics, and the overall bombastic nature of this album take it places where no other album has gone and these are wonderful places.
The start is a great segue form Addicted to Deconstruction. It is a subtle, atmospheric, electronic song that slowly gets heavier. It is a thought-provoking tune and has a beautiful presence before busting out in maniacal heaviness. Perhaps the only flaw of this album is the way it transitions into the next track Stand. Stand is an epic one, and a heavier one. Certainly there are more than a few riffs here that will get people going. There is an interesting bit of choirs in this song and it brings in once again a bazzillion different influences. The part at 7:48 is not to be missed, just classic Townsend that will bring to mind Ocean Machine. Then it busts once again into heaviness.
The next track, Julaar harks back to the Infinity record in many ways with its almost whimsical approach. It also hearkens back to Addicted in a way. The chorus is chaotic and almost black metal like. This blends into Planet of the Apes, one of the best tracks here. IT starts off a bit jazzy, then gets into some anthemic rhythms. At 3:32 the "Messhugah" part is extremely catchy. At 5:58 is just classic feel-good Townsend, just a beautiful section of course not devoid of Townsend's lighthearted humor.
Way of ways, and in a way I'm heading toward the sky!
We never will die, we never know why...
Just never hold back now, and I'll be happier still!
Oh! Everybody will know, I am so happy now!
I've got a little boner!
This busts into some awesome heaviness into the awesome Jesus/Jihad part. 7:42 on this masterful speedy almost like speed metal prog part, it is incredibly infectious. It ends with an experimental guitar solo and a nifty bit of electronics. This busts into Sumeria which is a symphonic almost melodic black metal song at points. It features big barbaric sounding choirs but also plenty typical high-pitched backing vocals. It is not a black metal song though, despite the influence, it sounds like a progressive metal song gone extreme if anything, there is influence form all over. The chorus is almost poppy and extremely catchy. The singing at the end is almost like those bubblegummy pop bands, but the melody is so much more sophisticated so that it actually works.
The Mighty Masturbator needs its own paragraph. Just an epic tune. IT borrows influences and even lyrics form past Townsend songs in the beginning. This is the first song that Townsend really shows off his vocals. After the calm intro the song goes out of control in all different directions, following a number of styles. Then at a point it turns into a completely new genre of music I would say. It is like bombastic orchestral chanting electronic ziltoidian industrial progressive metal. Just exemplifies the creativity of this guy. Then the guest vocals come in, they are okay, as are all of them on this album. The end of the album has an epic build up, and then it fades into a carnival with Ziltoid as the host saying some funny and bizarre shit.
Pandemic is a stomper. The operatic vocals just barely work here, but they do, good on Townsend to incorporate that. This one also has an Easter egg reminiscing Ki near the beginning. The chorus is discordant but somehow catchy. Deconstruction starts with some fart noises and some humorous commentary. The only thing that can be said about this song is that it is absolutely off the wall insanity. Townsend went far beyond the insanity of SYL with this one. It is complete with farts, Oderus Urungus, wanky guitar solos making fun of the band that take it seriously, mispronunciations of the word happiness, and all kinds of other humorous treats. Around 7:10 is what Devin Townsend is all about, if the vocals do not make you cry I don't know what could. This dude has obviously cemented himself as the most diverse and probably most talented singer ever. It is just awe-inspiring.
Poltergeist is another bowel-rattler. There is just some cool-sounding tough-guy stuff at the beginning ala SYL. The ending is just crippling, on line with such masterpieces as Dynamics.
If your poor inbreed soul hasn't been twisted into a million knots and your anus transformed into 5000 gaping holes after this album, I really don't know what to say, I really don't.
Deconstruction is an album for which I have been waiting for a long time. I am quite a fan of Devin's and although I completely enjoyed Ki and Addicted, It feels as if I've been neglected of some true heaviness from Devin Townsend, and the wait was definitely worth it!
I've been looking forward to this and Ghost for quite a while, and listening to Devin's interview on Metal Messiah Radio I found myself even more excited when he announced the use of an orchestra and a choir, and he sure knows how to use them right. But that is nowhere even near the true highlight of the album; the best part for me definitely has to go to, well, the straight-up over-the-top-ness of it.
Upon looking at the tracklist, all the hope of a serious album might seem to go down the drain (I mean, what's a Juular and The Mighty Masturbator? Really?), but believe it or not, even in the midst of that ridiculousness he still manages to make it all\, well, not seem ridiculous. In fact, The Mighty Masturbator and Deconstruction (a song primarily about cheeseburgers) are what I believe to be the highlights of this album. But I promise, everything else is just amazing. Within eight minutes of listening to this album, I remember thinking, "Holy crap! This is great!" There are innumerable layers at any given point in time.
Now, if you are one of those listeners who found Blind Guardian's A Night At The Opera just too full of stuff, this is not the album for you. It's just... so thick it's incredible. I really don't have anything bad to say about this album. I mean, it even has a guest appearance from Ziltoid the Omniscient. Speaking of which, I wonder how Z-squared is coming along......
Seriously though, great album. Definitely worth its weight in Unobtanium.
Throughout the course of a prospective four album series going by the name of the Devin Townsend Project, musical mastermind Devin Townsend has traversed virtually every corner of his musical vision, from folky ambiance to atmospheric rock, to extreme metal, be it of a poppy, or progressive variety. Long awaited since the first pair of Devin Townsend Project albums dropped in 2009, 'Deconstruction' has been hailed as Townsend representing 'what he was trying to achieve with Strapping Young Lad', his former flagship band, which was well-known for their antics, crushing heaviness and over-the-top nature. Suffice to say, the Devin Townsend Project has seen some mixed success since its inception, but as far as 'Deconstruction' goes, this is the closest thing of the Project to the sort of music that Townsend is best known for; tongue in cheek, bombastic progressive metal. In no shortage of ambition or complexity, 'Deconstruction' is Devin Townsend's crowning achievement in terms of this particular series, but much like the other three albums, it does not compare to the sort of perfection Townsend achieved earlier in his career.
If 'Ki' represented Devin's ability to restrain himself and use moderation, then 'Deconstruction' is its direct antithesis; a work that can be considered over-the-top in just about every conceivable way imaginable. Besides being about as long as a single disc will permit, 'Deconstruction' shows an almost unrelenting bout into complex arrangements, orchestrations, and- not to mention- a load of guest appearances from some of modern metal's most recognizable figures. Of these are Paul Masvidal of Cynic, Ihsahn formerly of Emperor, Joe Duplantier of Gojira, Tommy Rogers of Between The Buried And Me and- certainly of note- Oderus Urungus of GWAR, with whom Devin Townsend has had a lasting working relationship with. All of the elements that can be associated with Devin Townsend's heavier material are here in greater definition than they have ever been; operatic vocals, (bad) humour, incredibly heavy riffs and some rhythmic experimentation. The entire thing is certainly a spectacle, and sounds about as theatrical as I have ever heard Devin's work. Of another particular mention is the use of a full orchestra and choir here, which got me excited even months before hearing the actual record.
Of course, the album is brimming with promise, even if it was only still on the drawing board. Where the faults in the formula start showing up are not the ingredients themselves, but rather the way Devin Townsend uses them, or in this case, fails to use them. For instance, the full orchestra that Devin employs here can be heard on some of the more dramatic moments of the album, but are almost always drowned out behind the metal instruments, which seemingly never slink out of the spotlight once they are there. The guest cast of vocalists was another major selling point for 'Deconstruction', but hearing some of metal's most recognizable and greatest vocalists only being alloted a single verse or two feels incredibly underwhelming. Of course, Devin Townsend's vocals here are in top form; his clean operatic vocals are some of the best he has ever recorded.
The biggest joy here is the cheer over-the-top theatrics of it all, as well as the overbearing complexity that never seems to abate. The complexity comes at a fair price though; none of the songs on 'Deconstruction' ever feel like they will become classic tracks in Devin's repertoire. Unlike songs on 'Terria' which were able to marry intensity with incredible melodies and memorable moments, it almost always feels as if the intensity is at 100% throughout 'Deconstruction', and this can make even the most sweeping passages sound hazy in the context of the album. Even so, 'Deconstruction' is certainly an entertaining effort, despite it's intentional lack of discipline and lack of focus. Of course, this is only an album that will grow with each listen, and while some of Townsend's lackluster humour here will turn some listeners off from the start, there is a wealth of nooks in 'Deconstruction' that should keep an adventurous listener exploring worth many listens.